Sterling Ranch Development Moves off the Drawing Board

August 9, 2013
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The mixed use project includes 12,000 homes which are expected to generate more than $400 million in tax revenue annually

The mixed use project is expected to generate more than $400 million in tax revenue annually

CASTLE ROCK — After years of wrangling – in and out of court – the Sterling Ranch project to develop 3,400 acres won approval in July from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners to proceed.

The mixed use project includes 12,000 homes which are expected to generate more than $400 million in tax revenue annually.

Richmond Homes, a subsidiary of M.D. C. Holdings, was chosen as the primary builder to construct more than 5,000 homes.

County Commissioners Jill Repella, Jack Hilbert and Roger Partridge voted unanimously to approve the project which is contingent on Sterling Ranch, represented by President and CEO Harold Smethills, upholding commitments and promises made for the development.

“We anticipate homes being built in 2014 on Sterling Ranch,” said Smethills in a media release announcing the development had acquired water through Dominion Water and Sanitation District to sustain the entire project located in the Chatfield Basin.

Citing a study by Development Research Partners, Smethills stated that the $4.3 billion project will create about 1,000 construction jobs annually over two decades, generate more than 9,000 permanent jobs and have “an economic impact of more than $411 million a year.”

The development was first approved by the county commissioners back in May 2011, but a group known as Chatfield Community Association filed a legal challenge in Douglas County district court. Judge Paul King overturned the board’s approval because it failed to prove there would be sufficient water to sustain the development project in accordance with state law.

The law was changed in May after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Senate Bill 258 sponsored by Democrats Sen. Mary Hodge of Brighton and Rep. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City.  The measure clarifies state law to allow local governments to determine the adequacy of proposed water supply and at which stage of the permit development approval process that documentation is required.

Douglas County commissioners unanimously voted for two resolutions July 30 that sealed the deal. One stated the proposed Sterling Ranch development meets the criteria for its rezoning request. The second stated that the “Agreement and Declaration of Water Conservation Covenants” will be submitted concurrently and recorded with the rezoning applications for each phase of development.

The board gave preliminary approval after a four-hour public hearing on July 10 after weighing testimony by proponents and opponents, mostly Chatfield and Roxborough residents.

“I’d like to point out that (of) all the new information that we have, (SB 258) is consistent with the interpretation the board made on the original application and it was all consistent with our interpretation of the state statute,” said Repella, chair of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

The opponents had repeated their concerns about water supply, traffic congestion and density that would change their rural community lifestyles – issues raised in 2011.

“We’re set to go now,” Smethills told the Colorado Business Journal. “The housing demand is here.”

“It’s just a shame (about) all the time and money the county and opponents and we had spent on all this,” he said. “You always hope that you can find something that works for everyone.”

The Sterling Ranch development plans include designating 37 percent of the 3,400 acres as open space, and creating 30 miles of trails, several parks and wildlife corridors. In addition to homes, the mixed-use development will eventually include commercial buildings, an athletic complex and a town center designed like Littleton’s historic downtown district.

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